Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pamir Highway

The two days of riding from Khorog Tajikistan to Sary-Tash Kyrgyzstan would be another hard test of both men and machines.  When we left the hotel the first morning the news on the lost riders was that they had been picked up by the chase vehicle at 1AM that morning and would be back sometime before lunch.  On a much improved road surface than most anything ridden on the previous 3-days we made our way up M41 - the Pamir Highway.  The road drifted through the valley bottoms which were riddled with apparently very prosperous farming communities.  The road also continually gained elevation.  At some point the tree line was passed and there was no vegetation at all from then on of any kind.  At about that same place the pavement ended and the twisty gravel road headed towards the sky.   All along the scenery was fantastic.  The first of the big summits (over 4000m) came quickly and we were then on the plateau where we would stay for the rest of the day. A great barren land bordered on both sides by towering mountain ranges.   It gets cold up that high and I stopped a few times to add layers in order to keep warm.  As the second big summit of the day was achieved the road quickly dropped down to our destination.  

On our way out that morning we were informed to avoid the first gas station we came to on the way out of town as it was bad Kazakhstan gas and that the second gas station we would come across had the good Russia gas.  This is the sort of information that would have been handy information for those of us that took the initiative to fill our tanks the night before in order to avoid the inevitable morning rush hour tie ups.  More of the same endless views into the wonderful mountainscapes.  We steadily climbed to our highest point on the trip (4566 m), then down to a homestay by a lake for lunch.   

On the ride down hill I noticed that my brakes were noticeably not as effective as before - no where near as effective it turned out so I slowed my descending speed greatly.  Turns out that I wasn't the only one having this issue as a number of the group reported severely effected rear brake performance.   I quickly bled the rear brakes and was able to restore the correct hydraulic pressure.  A couple of theories were suggested as to the failing brakes with the consensus being that while small amounts of air in the fluid may be unnoticeable at lower altitudes up above 14000 feet that minimal air had expanded enough to be significantly compressible leading to the spongy brakes we had experienced.  My front brake issue was simply an adjuster on the lever being set to its minimum setting by either the jostling from the road or an over enthusiastic local thoroughly looking over the machine.  After an extended exit process from Tajikistan we traversed the spectacular 20km no-mans-land to the Kyrgyzstan border where we suffered through a confused and protracted entry.  

In the darkening light and increasing rain we were directed to the gas station in town where a girl with a sign would be whom we should follow to our accommodations for the night.  Seemed simple enough and it was and soon found ourselves faced with sleeping in a yurt or dorm room inside the warm and dry homestay.   I wimped out and chose a bed in the house.  At dinner that night we learned that the B-Team had run out of diesel for the bulldozer they had hired to help recover their abandoned motorcycles and that they would try again tomorrow after the delivery of more fuel.

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